They’ve had a summer signing spree the envy of every coach NRL, but Parramatta mentor Brad Arthur has identified an improvement in discipline as the key to success for the Eels in 2016.
International representatives Kieran Foran, Michael Jennings and Beau Scott headline an influx of talented additions to last year’s roster to have the Eels primed to break their six-year long finals drought.
However Arthur said it would count for nothing if they didn’t make strides in self-control, and his team didn’t need to look far for examples of teams who best knew how to toe the line with referees.
“The biggest thing about those two teams who made the grand final, maybe they weren’t the two best teams football-wise, but they were very well-disciplined,” he said.
“That’s an area that we’ve had to focus on. Both of those teams were one and two for discipline throughout the year in terms of penalties for and against.”
Arthur said last year’s Eels, who finished just two points from the bottom of the ladder in 12th, had received the least amount of penalties and given away the most.
It was his major concern heading into the pre-season and made it a priority to address over the summer.
“It’s been a massive focus for us in the pre-season, a bit of ownership for the players as well. If we can improve our discipline, I think that’ll put us in a good place,” he said.
New captain Kieran Foran said it was all about minimising the impact penalties had on the game.
“(Brad) did speak about how it was an area that we really wanted to improve on coming into 2016. He felt that to give ourselves every opportunity of winning games, we had to be giving away the least amount of penalties as we could,” he said.
“So we’ve trained hard for it, we’ve worked on those areas in our game that can help minimise those penalties. As far as talking to the refs, we won’t be focused on that. Brad’s not a big believer in that. We’ve just got to minimise the impact it has on the game.”
Arthur will get another look at his team’s discipline when he names close to a full-strength side for Saturday’s trial against Penrith, but admits he faces a difficult call on finalising his top 17.
“I’m close. I’ve got a trial this week against Penrith and the real pleasing thing for me is I’m going to be faced with the most difficult decision I’ve had to make in my two years as a coach,” he said.
The Eels open their season against Brisbane on March 3.